It’s Written All Over Their Faces: Signs Your Child Could Have Airway Obstruction & Allergies - Harrell Orthodontic Specialist
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It’s Written All Over Their Faces: Signs Your Child Could Have Airway Obstruction & Allergies

Orthodontists (and most physicians) understand that sleep disorders in children can lead to problems such as daytime sleepiness, delayed growth, misdiagnosed ADD/ADHD and even bed wetting. Constant mouth breathing can lead to altered growth of the face and result in certain types of malocclusions (bite problems). What’s more, obstructed sleep can lead to long-term health problems such as high blood pressure, cardiovascular conditions, diabetes and stroke.

How do you know if your child has a sleep disorder? Some signs are obvious: snoring, gasping for breath at night, or even short periods in which breathing stops altogether. Airway obstruction is usually the culprit and you can often tell if there’s a problem just by observing your child’s face. Here are some signs to look for; if your child exhibits any of these, it’s important to see a healthcare professional for proper diagnosis and treatment.


  • Dark circles under the eyes, “Allergic Shiners”, are an indication of allergy / airway problems.
  • Mouth breathing alters proper facial growth and leads to a narrow face and narrow upper and lower jaw (Crowded teeth)
  • Small Nose from lack of nasal breathing
  • “Tired eyes” from lack of proper sleep and reduced oxygenation.
  • Long facial pattern due to open mouth posture
  • Open Mouth posture can lead to tongue thrust and open bite malocclusion.
  • “Bags under the eyes” is an indication of lack of venous drainage and venous pooling (blood pooling of the veins around the eyes). Also note the “squinting of the eyes” (‘tired eyes’).
  • Dennie’s Sign/Fold is the radiating lines under the eyes. This is a diagnostic sign of allergy.
  • The “Allergic Salute” & The Transverse Nasal Crease. Constant “wiping of the nose” in order to open the nose in a patient with allergies can caus
  • e a transverse nasal crease to develop across the base of the nose.
  • Flattened areas on the face related to sinus development. See difference in the right and left contour of the face. The left side is flatter. See arrow.

These are the most obvious signs but if your child has restless sleep, is mouth-breathing, snoring, or exhibits other signs of sleep disturbances, contact an orthodontist or other healthcare professional to check for airway obstruction. Early detection, diagnosis and treatment are key to avoiding abnormal facial growth, allergies, and long-term health problems.

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